The Equipment You Need to Add Asian-Noodle Dishes to Your Menu
Sales at Asian-noodle concepts grew 9% in 2018, according to Technomic's Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report—beating the 3% overall sales growth of top chains. And the researcher forecasts continued better-than-average growth for this category over the next few years.
Noodles are a great vehicle for the flavors and formats that appeal to today's diners: They allow operators to blend on-trend Asian flavors with better-for-you ingredients, and they are a go-to base for bowls and dishes that guests can customize.
Operators looking to add Asian-noodle dishes to their menu mix may want to tweak their cookline to include the following equipment:
Pasta cookers measure about the same footprint (16-in.W or 18-in.W) as a deep fryer and hold uncooked pasta in baskets; employees lower the baskets into the water when it's time to cook it. Choose from gas or electric units that offer one big basket to hold uncooked pasta or multiple small baskets for individual servings. Look for autofill features so that employees don't have to keep adding water manually.
Jerry Koeveras of Sam Tell Cos. recommends a noodle cooker as an alternative to a pasta cooker. These specialized cookers have a slightly roomier tank with more spacing between baskets and larger baskets for bigger portions. They handle as many as nine individual serving baskets.
Some dishes call for pan-frying cooked noodles along with vegetables and a protein before serving. For Asian cooking, dealers find chefs often prefer woks over a standard frying pan or skillet; with flat-bottom pans, the food is in constant contact with the teated surface. Tossing the product in the wok during cooking also keeps the food from sitting in grease. Some wok ranges are fitted with collars specifically designed to hold woks. Woks come in a variety of materials including cast iron and aluminum but carbon steel is popular for quick heating and durability. Along with a choice of single or twin handles (welded or bolted on), woks come in a range of sizes from 6-in. to 30-in. diameters your recipes dictate the right wok size. "If your product reaches the top of the wok, either your wok is too small or you're cooking too much at one time," says Joe Ferri Jr. of Pecinka-Ferri Associates.
While you can heat woks over most range burners with the addition of a wok collar, gas-fired wok ranges provide upward of 100,000 Btus per burner, creating the high heat needed for woks. Because wok cooking involves a lot of movement by the chef—stirring and flipping the food as it cooks—make sure you have sufficient work space around the unit. Countertop induction wok ranges are another option; they provide high ehat directly to the wok but don't add residual heat to the workspace. Make sure, though, that your wok is made specifically for induction cooking. Induction woks may be mroe expensive, but Dough Fahrenholz with Wasserstrom Co. says the energy savings of induction cooking can offset the price.
Broth is an essential ingredient in many Asian-noodle dishes. Using a stockpot on a stockpot range is one option; if you're doing small batch cooking, Fahrenholz suggests a 28-qt., 20-in.-diameter aluminum brazier stockpot.
However, given that each noodle bowl holds 16 ox. to 20 oz. of broth, you may need to cook larger batches in a stockpot ranging from 80-qt. to 120-qt. capacity. Kettles, whether countertop or floor-mounted, should hold at least 10 gal., depending hon how much broth you need, Fahrenholz recommends.
Asian noodle dishes typically include chopped vegetables and proteins. Whether you do it by hand or in a food processor, using the right tools will ensure you have the capacity to prep the ingredients.